Italy refugees jeopardised by pandemic

By Tianna Haas | Italy in Eurooppa

Deane with a refugee friend.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the struggle for survival among refugees in Italy, most of whom come from West Africa, North Africa and Bangladesh.

SIM member Sherilyn, who has served in Italy with her husband Deane since 2019, said: “COVID-19 has ruined the local economy. The lack of tourism has affected many businesses and Italian people, so it is extremely difficult for refugees and migrants.”

Italy’s tight three-month lockdown kept non-essential workers within a 200-metre radius of their homes. They could only venture out for food and medical supplies. Sherilyn said: “Very few refugees and migrants were essential workers, so they had no means or money to pay the rent, or for power or gas.”

Even before the crisis, displaced people found it challenging was challenging to get work. Employment contracts are hard to come by but necessary to secure long-term residency. The typical refugee visa lasts three to five years, though some have no documentation at all, further complicating the search for work.

Sherilyn said: “Some refugees and migrants have cleaning or restaurant work for a few hours a week. Many survive on parking or cleaning cars, which brings in only a little money. It’s enough for some food but not to pay rent, for power or fuel, or anything else. There are many people and few jobs, with many Italians also in need of work.”

Sherilyn with two refugee friends.

Sherilyn and Deane have operated a centre for refugees and migrants for the past year, but the pandemic forced them to close down for four months.

However, they are now providing relief in the form of food bags and gospel proclamation. Sherilyn said: “Initially, when social distancing was adhered to during the strict lockdown period, we were able to distribute food bags.

“We would do this from the corner where our apartment is located as we went to the supermarket each day. We wore masks and gloves and stayed 1.5 meters apart from anyone that came for food.

“Since the lockdown was lifted and without the centre, we now meet more people every day on the streets and in a cafe, getting contact details to distribute more food bags. Deane is meeting more people on the streets and at the cafe in a week than we had visit the centre in a month.”

They have taken the opportunity to engage these contacts with the gospel, pointing many beleaguered souls to Jesus.

Deane provides biblical encouragement through messages and videos on a weekly basis to a WhatsApp group of 180 men he’s met on the street. Through the group and a Facebook page, ‘Gospel Hope,’ they are able to share the hope of Christ while remaining socially distant.

They continue to find many migrants and refugees battling financial struggles and spiritual darkness. Sherilyn said: “We have met many new contacts through our regulars who also need help. Many Africans believe in the prosperity gospel while others, along with most of the Bangladeshi people, adhere to the majority religion of their home country.”

Help refugees in Italy

Sherilyn and Deane need assistance to help displaced people going hungry. Along with a bag of food and basic necessities, they give a gospel tract and offer a free Bible.

Can you help them in their ministry to refugees? Please consider donating one of the following gifts:

1. €10: This will feed a single man or a couple for a week. It includes both food staples and toiletries.

2. €3: This will feed a homeless person with a non-perishable meal and drink.

3. €15: This will feed a toddler for a week. It includes baby food, diapers and wipes.

To contribute one of these gifts, visit our donation page, find the nearest office to you, and use project number 99756.

Pray for:

• Displaced people to come to faith in Christ.

• Refugees and migrants to find a source of income and stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Sherilyn and Deane to have strength and resources to continue demonstrating Christ-like compassion to those in Italy.